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Is Heath’s tax hike for Colorado a great “grass-roots” effort?

By | August 2nd, 2011

Colorado state Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, held a press conference Monday to announce that his team had collected more than 142,000 signatures to put a proposed $3 billion dollar tax hike on the November ballot, purportedly to fund education.

When the campaign kicked off in May, Heath remarked, “This is going to be, I would hope, the greatest grass-roots effort that this state has seen.”

He sure tried to make it look that way Monday.

Heath stood outside at a podium, flanked by a handful of legislators and children posed (this time by their parents) in red wagons used to pull the boxes of signatures to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office in Denver.  But as the event was winding down, Durango Herald statehouse reporter Joe Hanel asked a very astute question about whether Heath had used paid petition gatherers. Heath responded that yes, he had used paid petitioners. When Hanel asked the approximate percentage breakdown of volunteers to paid signature gatherers, Heath seemed somewhat defensive.

HANEL: “What is the approximate split between paid and volunteer?”

HEATH: “About a third, I would say.”

HANEL: “A third paid?”

HEATH: “No, a third volunteer. I don’t have the exact numbers. Just so you know, for people who think this is easy to get on the ballot, you ought to try it sometime. And, we had volunteers all over the state. I haven’t looked, but I would doubt if there isn’t a county represented in these signatures.”

Okay, we get it. Getting on the ballot is HARD, it’s supposed to be. But if Heath aspired to a standard of “the greatest grass-roots effort that this state has seen,” there’s a level of disingenousness when a majority of his petition gatherers were getting paid to do so.

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